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Dining with fire

Updated: Aug 27, 2021

Have you experienced the art of fire dining?

Stripping back the cooking experience to its primal elements, the team at Elemento based in Portugal are offering a unique, fiery experience to customers.

Owner of the restaurant and creator of the concept Ricardo Dias Ferreira describes the idea by saying: “Imagine how human beings did it primitively, without technology, without gas, without electricity, and only with one element… fire. This is cooking's true root.”

We recently spoke to Ricardo to find out more about Elemento, exploring the concept deeper and finding out what those dining at the unique Michelin Plate restaurant can expect.

Photo credit Elemento

What inspired Ricardo to develop the concept of open fire dining?

Ricardo shared where the idea came from he said :”I wanted to rebel from what everyone was doing and do something different. I want to show what I have in my deep mind, that’s why I gave up on a normal and perfect career I was building in Sydney, Australia and came back to Portugal to open my own Business.

“I have a love for the element of fire, it’s a rebel and difficult like me.”

When did Ricardo know he know he wanted to be a chef and why?

Ricardo who states that his biggest inspiration is his team said: “I was a young troublemaker on the good way of course, I couldn’t see myself with an “normal” job from the 9am-5pm Monday to Friday, I chose the hardest way. I'm a hands on job guy and the kitchen can give me that with a lot of creativity and study.”

What’s the concept behind the restaurant?

Ricardo explained how the restaurant has been stripped right back to before technology, he said: “Elemento it’s a fire dining base concept, without any technology we cook just with the power of fire and embers, the first of this kind in Portugal.”

Photo credit Elemento

How do Elemento curate the menu, what do you look for in ingredients?

The staff work on a daily basis changing the menu to find out what is available for the next day, Ricardo explained: “We try to find out what’s available from our suppliers for the next day, what is in season, what’s new and different and what we can cook over the fire. Then we design the menu. “It’s a day to day job but it gives us a unique way of creativity.”

Where does Ricardo get his inspiration from?

Ricardo spoke about how nature inspires the dishes, he said: “In the products, we try to follow what the animal eats, because we change so many times the menu it’s a daily work of everyone, all chefs gives an opinion of what we could do, this gives them the opportunity to be part of the whole process as well as cooking.”

In the past three years the restaurant has created more than 400 different dishes, Ricardo said: “It’s insane the dishes we create. One of my favourites is from the first day which is Duck Breast from a farm near Tomar with Bearnaise sauce and grilled lettuce, people loved it!”

Ricardo, who was raised in a small fisherman village called Pedrogao Beach said: “I love to work with fish and seafood, I go out at 2am to find a good spot for fishing, I have had a huge connection with the ocean since I was a kid.”

What can people expect when they visit the restaurant?

When you visit the Michelin star restaurant in Portugal you will expect to find a unique menu and dining experience, Ricardo added: “We have fresh products, some different to what people will have tasted before. We have a really good vibe as well, we don’t want to be like traditional fine dining restaurants, and we don’t serve traditional Portuguese cuisine.

“We are something different, a casual vibe with world wide techniques with Portuguese Products.”

Photo credit Elemento

What types of wood do they use and why?

Ricardo said: “We use Oak for the fire pit and after for the service to make embers. To start with we use the oven with acacia wood and some secrets behind it!”

How do the Elemento staff ensure that guests have the best visit?

Elemento offers a casual fine dining experience with a relaxed vibe, Ricardo said: “We have good service but a casual and relaxed vibe. “We serve good and organic wine, different to what you will find anywhere else, there’s also a nice wood smell throughout the restaurant.”

He added: “Technology was created when we did the first fire Pit thousands of years ago, and it's possible to cook like that inside of a restaurant serving 60 guests per night with an eight moments menu, we want to be one of the restaurants who can show isn’t all about technology.. we don’t need convection ovens, we just need a good fire and embers do the same, and that is what makes Elemento Special.”

Photo credit Elemento

Ricardo's advice to a chef who wants to work at his restaurant?

If you’re looking to work at the unique and exciting restaurant, Ricardo offered his advice: “You will burn your arms and your hands, you will be in stress during service to keep your fire perfect, you will work in a hot environment, but in the end of the day you will do something out of the box, you will be more hard core chef then your friends chefs, you will be proud of your scars, you will have life balance and a strong team with you.”

As a restaurant what are the key components to running smoothly?

Ricardo offered his advice to other restaurant owners, he said: “You have to be there almost most of the time to keep the team confident and see everything that’s happening, at the same time I know I can be out as well because my team its strong and do the best work and effort possible. They trust me and I trust them.”

What does the future hold for Elemento?

Sharing what he hopes for the future Ricardo said: “I don’t want the restaurant to be everywhere I want a low profile but with good numbers and a good quality of customers. Elemento is Elemento and that’s what makes it different.”

Photo credit Elemento

His advice to his younger self…

Finally Ricardo added his advice to his younger ‘rebellious’ self, he said: “Do not change anything, you will do what you like with a lot of sacrifices in life but will give you the opportunity to be in direct contact with the world.”

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